The trade deadline is less than a week away, and according to MLB insiders like Buster Olney, talks are beginning to heat up.
Execs say the trade talk has increased significantly around MLB today, with a week before the deadline. But so far, few actual sellers (SEA mentioned a lot), and unclear which teams willing to take on $. "Every dollar is a big deal this year," said one official. "Every dollar."
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 24, 2020
As they have been the last two seasons, the Braves are poised to be active buyers, with their primary need being rotation help.
In my perfect world, that should be their only focus. Third base has been rocky over the first month, but Austin Riley looks to be turning the corner and could provide a considerable boost to the Braves’ offense if he stays hot. That might change if he has a miserable week leading up to the August 31st trade deadline, but for now, it’s time for Anthopoulos to start ringing the phones in search of multiple starting pitchers.
That’s right, I said multiple. The consensus around the league is that the Braves will trade for at least one starting pitcher before the deadline, but the reality is they need two, and one of them needs to be a legitimate #2 behind Max Fried.
It’s challenging to narrow down all the teams that will be selling, especially in the NL, where so many clubs are within a couple games of the final playoff spot. However, there likely will be some high-quality starting pitchers available, and the Braves have to snag one of them. Here are some guys that could be traded before next Monday that could be viewed as top of the rotation candidates:
1) Lance Lynn
2) Johnny Cueto
3) Trevor Bauer
4) Mike Clevinger
5) Taijuan Walker
6) Dylan Bundy
7) Alex Cobb
8) Robbie Ray
9) Marco Gonzalez
10) Trevor Williams
This is my trade deadline wish list, but I’m also trying to keep it realistic. Mike Clevinger is the most valuable pitcher that could be available because not only is he the best, but he also comes with two more years of control after the season. The Indians will listen to offers, but I believe the price tag will be too high for any team to pull the trigger at the end of the day.
The next most valuable on this list is probably Lance Lynn, simply because he has another year of team control next season. Bauer might be the best of the bunch, but he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Still, either of these arms would be tremendous additions to Atlanta’s rotation. I’m just not sure the Reds will sell, and their asking price for Bauer could be far too high in a shortened season with a 16-team playoff.
Those three guys mentioned above are really the only three I would consider ace-caliber starting pitchers. So, in an ideal world, the Braves trade for Clevinger or Lynn, boosting their rotation for multiple seasons. The rest of the pitchers on the list could be #2’s, but they all have their warts.
Next, the Braves need to add — at the very least — another innings eater, preferably one with some upside that won’t cost much in terms of prospect capital. That should be much easier for Anthopoulos to acquire.
A couple of guys on the list above fit that description. Johnny Cueto probably wouldn’t require any top prospects if the Braves were willing to take on the bulk of his contract for this year and next. Robbie Ray also shouldn’t force Anthopoulos to part ways with any top 20 prospects. He’s in the last year of his deal and currently sports an 8.33 ERA. However, he has a terrific track record, averaging over eleven strikeouts per nine innings in every season since 2016.
A few other names to keep an eye on are Kevin Gausman, Matthew Boyd, and Nathan Eovaldi. Gausman is having a decent year for the Giants, boasting a 4.65 ERA while increasing his fastball velocity to over 95 miles per hour. Boyd has been terrible for the Tigers, but perhaps a change of scenery could do him wonders. The same could be said for Eovaldi, who has a 4.98 ERA in six starts. None of these players would cost that much prospect capital, and all are upgrades over what the Braves currently have, with the potential to be viable #3’s in a potential playoff series.
So if I’m keeping this realistic, I’m going to eliminate Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger. I know the Reds are in the midst of a losing streak, but FanGraphs still gives them over a 30% chance to make the postseason. Unless they lose four out of their next five games, I think they attempt to add at the deadline. Cincinnati has to like their chances in a playoff series with their starting pitching if they can improve their offense.
Clevinger would be a tremendous get as well, but with two more years of team control, the asking price will be an arm and a leg. Anthopoulos has held on tight to his best prospects over the last couple of seasons, and I don’t think that changes this week.
That leaves Lance Lynn as the best possible target for the Braves. The 33-year-old has already accrued 2.1 WAR over seven starts this season, thanks to a minuscule 1.59 ERA. He also has playoff experience, another year of control on a reasonable contract, and should not cost the Braves a top-five prospect.
In addition to Lynn, I hope the Braves add another arm, and I’m thinking of guys on expiring contracts (because they won’t require elite prospects to add) that have the upside to potentially pitch in Game 3 of a playoff series. I know Robbie Ray has been terrible this season, but he’s still got fantastic stuff and an excellent track record. Adding someone with his ability and Lynn would give the Braves’ rotation the necessary juice for a postseason run.
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